About this Show

Tavis Smiley

News/Business. James Taylor. (2013) Singer James Taylor. New. (CC) (Stereo)

NETWORK
PBS

DURATION
00:30:00

RATING

SCANNED IN
San Francisco, CA, USA

SOURCE
Comcast Cable

TUNER
Channel 80 (561 MHz)

VIDEO CODEC
mpeg2video

AUDIO CODEC
ac3

PIXEL WIDTH
720

PIXEL HEIGHT
480

TOPIC FREQUENCY

Taylor 8, James Taylor 6, England 3, Massachusetts 2, U.s. 2, Los Angeles 2, Marvin Gaye 2, Indiana 2, Peter Asher 2, Pbs 2, Boston 1, Lowell 1, Jerusalem 1, Minneapolis 1, Europe 1, Ry Cooder 1, North Carolina 1, Apple 1, Us 1, Italy 1,
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  PBS    Tavis Smiley    News/Business. James Taylor.  (2013)  
   Singer James Taylor. New. (CC) (Stereo)  

    January 18, 2013
    12:00 - 12:30am PST  

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smiley. tonight we continue to celebrate our 10th anniversary here on pbs by looking back at some of our favorite guest and conversations of these teen years. tonight, james taylor. he has joined us on more than one occasion for some great conversations. tonight, we will hear him open up about his trouble with addiction and the role of spirituality in his life, along with some stories about his remarkable musical journey. a look back at our conversations with james taylor, coming up right now. >> there is a saying that dr. king had that said there is always the right time to do the right thing. i just try to live my life every day by doing the right thing.
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we know that we are only halfway to completely eliminate hunger, and we have a lot of work to do. walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the u.s. as we work together, we can stamp hunger out. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. tavis: it's no secret around here than i consider myself one of the biggest james taylor fans on the planet. i spent a couple of nice debating jamie lee curtis on which one of us is a bigger james taylor fan.
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he has just released a new album. sometimes it is a rocky road he has traveled during his remarkable career. winter, spring, summer, or fall, all you've got to do is call and i will be there, yes i will you've got a friend ♪ tavis: everybody knows how much i love james taylor. i say it unapologetically, i am the biggest james taylor fan in the entire world. i have stopped this guy all over the country. i stopped him in italy. i sit in the rain and hear him performed outdoors.
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my boys prince came to see a number of times. i have a contest on the show among all my producers, the person who got james taylor booked first would win a huge prize. carol wins, because james taylor is here. >> is great to see you. tavis: led to heavy on the program. or going back to england again. in your career in some ways got started in england. the first artist ever to sign to apple records, the beetles labeled. take me back to england those many years ago and tell us how that happened. >> it was amazing, really. i was a huge beatles fan. we could talk about who i listen to growing up and what my sources were, but certainly the beatles were a late, important
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for me.e puerto rica i just took my guitar and a handful of songs and thought i will just go over and travel around europe and see what comes of it. shortly after i got there, some friends i met, some people i know there got very taken by my tunes and my playing encourage me to make a demo disks. it was funny, it was in soho, and actually cut a disk live as you were singing. i took that around to a number of different people. eventually, peter asher, who lives here in los angeles and was my manager for many, many years, and produced most of the early albums. peter heard that this and he had just signed on for apple records and took the disk to
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paul mclarney and george harrison. they herded and gave the green light, and i was set -- they heard it and gave it the green light. it was like the mother of all big breaks. for me, it was just like someone opened the door. >> as amazing as that story is, that was not the moment that we got to become aware of james taylor. you did not become a hit based upon that this. but the first album got enough recognition to be able to come here to los angeles. peter asher picked up a record deal with warner brothers records. that is when we made "sweet baby james." tavis: baby face and i grew up in the same part of indiana.
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we both grew up in the corn field listening to james taylor. >> that is an honor, i love it. i think we approach music probably from a very similar direction. i would not be surprised to learn that he and i have the same influence is growing up. tavis: one of the things we had fun talking about last night is that we got so turned on as kids in indiana by the soulfulness of your sound. this camera cannot see the studio, we have a little mini- audience today, but there are some black faces over there. he asked black eyes today, give me some white guys you like to listen to that had sold. james taylor talks with a list.
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your at the top of the list. how does that happen for you? where does that solul come from? >> american music, for me, it is a synthesis of a lot of different things. growing up in north carolina, the stuff i was listening to, the things i was hearing, it was all about black music, about soul music. when i first started playing with an old friend of mine from new york, who i used to know from somers on cape cod in massachusetts, he and i when we first got together, he was all about blues. he gave me an entire education, really, along witmy brother, allen, who was a blues singer until he died. that and the sort of brazilian,
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afro-cuban, caribbean connection, those were really my main sources. that is what i was interested in listening to, and that is what i wanted to sound like. there has been this thing about white people stealing black music. i think there is no doubt about that, but there are also white musicians, eric clapton, ry cooder, phil collins, you mentioned, many, many players who were just brought up on it and loved black music. they just want to sound that way. when i sit down and think, that is what comes out. that is what i am trying to emulate. marvin gaye, sam cooke, huge giants and people who are listen to, just cut the debt linked as a kid, all that mt time -- just
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studied at length as a kid. that is not the case now for kids. it is all shattered to smithereens. you are distracted so frequently, you don't get a chance to really listen and reflect. that marvin gaye approved of my -- how of "house we'd is sweet it is." tavis: how does james taylor go about writing songs, that he does not always figure out what they mean until years later? >> that is a reference to -- it is true that i can write a song and not really be sure what the meaning is. in the case of this dvd, there is the introduction to a song called "never die young."
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it refers to that mysterious nature of writings on. i have only written a couple of convincing things. one thing called "mill worker" written for a musical that was an adaptation about a woman who worked in a shoe manufacturing plant in lowell, massachusetts. generally speaking, i am visited by songs. they usually happen to me either while i am sitting and playing guitar or sometimes while i am driving a car. tavis: kind of hard to write it down when you are driving, though. [applause] [laughter]
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it takes notes for me. i don't read music. i don't write or read music. tavis: that is amazing, with all the songs you have written, that you don't read music. >> it is a block at this point. there is an old joke, not very funny, but i don't like folks that are terribly funny. there is a joke that they ask a jazz musician if he reads music. he said yes, but not so that it gets in the way. there is a thing that really i am often surprised by classical musicians. i have met a large number of them. my wife works for the boston symphony and i am in that world a lot now. i am surprised at how difficult it is for people who are classically trained to read music, or to memorize music, how
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difficult it is for them to improvise, to just go off and play it. tavis: probably no more surprised that kim is that you cannot. >> she does, she reads music, and she does not believe that i cannot. john williams said, of course he can read music. tavis: one of the things that i celebrate about you and revel in is your humanity. i revel in the humanity that is found in your lyrics. particularly when you jack -- juxtaposed that on the difficulty you have had in your own life. i am trying to find the right way to phrase it. how have those chapters help you in your riding, help you become
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who you are? >> my family suffers from addiction problems, as many do. also, i also i think some emotional problems, anxiety or depression. those are present in my family. sort of historically, as a matter of family history. it is not surprising that crops up in my generation a lot. it killed my brother alex, alcohol did. and substance abuse -- i was an active at it for a long time. it should have killed me about five times. really should have. i am very lucky to have survived it. there was a lot of wasted time,
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and there was a lot of unavailability, because i was just sealed off to the rest of the world. but somehow, i had to travel the route that i did. sometimes i think that it almost saved my life, that time while i was dancing with that particular devil. as a kid, it was a very difficult passage through late adolescence. it is very fragile time, and young people, young men can easily died during this period of time. it is the time when you send young men into battle, you get behind the wheel of a car and the first let you drink.
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i have two grown children who have made it through that period, and now breathe a huge sigh of relief. i have 6-year-old twins who will come to that. again, and is almost like that "catcher in the rye" kind of idea of just hoping that kids get through this stretch of time. for me, it was very trying, and it took me a long time to get through it. 20 years, really, of being active. somehow in spite of it, i managed to write tunes to play to a lot of of audiences, to travel a lot, to father two kids, and eventually to make it into recovery, thank god.
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it is just part of my story. it is part of the experience that i write about. i have written a number of songs about the kind of -- i think it is connected to a cosmic, human question of human consciousness. the nature of human consciousness and the nature of knowing things, and the degree to which we are responsible for and in control of our own lives. it is connected to this personal difficulty in a sort of mirror way. i write songs about that, too, about letting go, about surrender. i think of myself as a highly spiritual person. i was never really given a religion or a religious experience or community to sort of subscribe to. i think i missed the boat.
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i envy people who have a strong faith and a community of faith that they live in. and know that reading about your upbringing, that was a huge rock and solid high ground in your upbringing. i had a very moral upbringing, and spiritual in a not very specific way. the kind of songs that i write are sort of agnostic spiritual. tavis: it sounds oxymoron in, and yet you pull it off, an agnostic spiritual. >> to me, it is about whether or not you can stand a mystery, or where the can stand to have things b. unresolved.
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people want answers. particularly when there is a threat to it, when not knowing might kill you. it seems to me as though human consciousness evolved to look for trouble and to look for problems, to look for threats. it is the nature of human consciousness to look for trouble constantly, and we find it. tavis: when james taylor joined us the following year, he had just put out a terrific cd. he brought his guitar along this time, that had special meaning since the day he discovered it years ago. i insisted that somebody please get j.t. to bring his guitar. >> this guitar was in a hotel room in minneapolis in 1985 when i checked in. the builder, james olson, who lives in st. paul, he had
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somehow gotten the guitar into the room. i picked it up and played it, and i have not gone back. it has a slightly wider net than most flattop guitars have, and not a large body. i have often thought i would like to make like a plastic copy of it and put it up here because i never get up here. [laughter] it just sounds good in spite of it. he had left this, and i loved the way it sounded. with the exception of a line 6 guitar which i played now, because i am developing a special kind of electronic guitar that plays bass at the same time it plays guitar. with the exception of that line 6, and a fender telecast that i
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played on two or three songs and night, this is the guitar i mostly play. ♪ >> i was brought up in the context of, like, the episcopal hymnal i think is probably what is at the center of my, along with the rest of the western world, is at the center of my musical experience. and i learned those songs. ♪
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those songs like that's "jerusalem," and "a mighty fortress is our god," and all of those tunes i worked out when i was in school on the guitar, and the endless bored, empty moments that there were. there's time today for young people, it seems to be just filled with distractions constantly. but when i was a kid, i was bored. there was empty time, and a lot of it -- time to kill, time to have long, circular thoughts. so i sat -- once the guitar started giving me sounds back that i liked, i was off and running, and i worked up hymns and christmas carols and then started learning things that other people taught me, and songs that i liked.
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so that's it, that's what you hope for in this life anyway, is to find what it is that you love the most and then just follow it. follow it as far as you can. tavis: you push yourself on this. i open it up and looked at it and i saw some of the song titles , i am songwow. -- i am like wow. you have a dixie chicks song on here. >> we learn that when we were on the road. we did a lot of work for john kerry and move on and vote for change. we did a tour of swing states.
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the dixie chicks played a couple of songs of mine and i did a couple of theirs in the said we did together. that is what i took away from that tour was that song. it is just a good time song. tavis: when you were here last, i recall are having a conversation about your own song writing process and how there are certain song she wrote years ago, and one day you are performing in for the umpteenth time onstage and the meaning of the song finally hits you, or hit you in a different way than it did when you first wrote it. he said that to me in our last conversation. which leads me to my next question, how you personally connect and find meaning in the songs of others you sometimes don't figure out your own songs until years later? >> it is all mysterious.
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you just move into the music and play it. this is mostly just a good time stuff, comfort tunes, essentially. it could have been like a party record. it could have been all soul tunes, all from that john representative. it could have been all country. -- all from genre. really, what happens when you sing someone else's song is, you find an emotional connection in its. most of the time, sometimes you don't, and then you should not be doing it. a song like "suzanne," a beautiful version by judy collins on a famous album that she did. that beautiful leonard cohen song has been something that has been reaching out to me for
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years. i played it in sound check when the house mixer says give us something with just guitar and voice. i would often play that song. i knew it, and i wanted it to go on the record. tavis: i have lost count of how many times i have seen james taylor in concert. i always rebel in his humility and his humanity, and of course, his gift of song that he has given to the world. that is our song for tonight. as always, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for our conversation with coretta scott king. that is next time.
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we will see you then. >> there is a saying that dr. king had that said there is always the right time to do the right thing. i just try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. we know that we are only halfway to completely eliminate hunger, and we have a lot of work to do. walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the u.s. as we work together, we can stamp hunger out. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> be more. pbs.
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